First, try to be something, anything, else. A movie star/astronaut. A movie star/missionary. A movie star/kindergarten teacher. President of the World. Fail miserably. It is best if you fail at an early age—say, fourteen.
Look down at your schedule. Wonder how the hell you ended up here. The computer, apparently, has made an error. You start to get up to leave and then don’t. The lines at the registrar this week are huge. Perhaps you should stick with this mistake. Perhaps your creative writing isn’t all that bad. Perhaps it is fate.
Write another story about a man and a woman who, in the very first paragraph, have their lower torsos accidentally blitzed away by dynamite. In the second paragraph, with the insurance money, they buy a frozen yogurt stand together. There are six more paragraphs. You read the whole thing out loud in class. No one likes it. They say your sense of plot is outrageous and incompetent. After class someone asks you if you are crazy.
You spend too much time slouched and demoralized. Your boyfriend suggests bicycling. Your roommate suggests a new boyfriend. You are said to be self-mutilating and losing weight, but you continue writing. The only happiness you have is writing something new, in the middle of the night, armpits damp, heart pounding, something no one has yet seen.
About the second you write an elaborate story of an old married couple who stumble upon an unknown land mine in their kitchen and accidentally blow themselves up. You call it: “For Better or for Liverwurst.”
About the last you write nothing. There are no words for this. Your typewriter hums. You can find no words.
Insist you are not very interested in any one subject at all, that you are interested in the music of language, that you are interested in—in—syllables, because they are the atoms of poetry, the cells of the mind, the breath of the soul. Begin to feel woozy. Stare into your plastic wine cup.
“Syllables?” you will hear someone ask, voice trailing off, as they glide slowly toward the reassuring white of the dip.
Your mother will come visit you. She will look at the circles under your eyes and hand you a brown book with a brown briefcase on the cover. It is entitled: How to Become a Business Executive. She has also brought the Names for Baby encyclopedia you asked for; one of your characters, the aging clown-school teacher, needs a new name.
You have broken up with your boyfriend. You now go out with men who, instead of whispering “I love you,” shout: “Do it to me, baby.” This is good for your writing.
Tell them you were going to be a child psychology major. “I bet,” they always sigh, “you’d be great with kids.” Scowl fiercely. Tell them you’re a walking blade.
“Interesting,” smiles your date, and then he looks down at his arm hairs and starts to smooth them, all, always, in the same direction.